If there is one thing I learned from listening to online communities, it’s that the old saying “know your audience” still applies to the online world.
In most situations, brands will try to bend over backwards to their audience. Seldom will they engage in fights with their audience. With every post being visible to the internet at large, a negative tweet can quickly blow up and become an example of what not to do in a marketing class.
However, this rule doesn’t always apply if you’re talking about personal branding. I’ve followed a lot of video game reviewers and the one thing I found is that they will readily reply back to nasty tweets with their own level of snark. Interestingly, they won’t lose followers. In fact, they even have their defenders.
As an example, I follow Arthur Gies on Twitter. If you look at his most popular tweets in terms of retweets and the number of times it’s marked as a favourite, you’ll see that he doesn’t hold back. A choice example is “oh noooo all the dudes with anime avatars are commenting”. That’s a tweet that directly attacked a segment of his readership and yet he still manages to be fairly popular.
So what allows a game reviewer to respond to snark where a company cannot? Well it might be the fact that their job description requires them to be opinionated. We somewhat expect a certain amount of snark from film reviewers with regards to terrible films. Fashion commentators are well known for heaving insults on the poorly dressed. So those that follow game reviewers might have come to expect that the reviewers can be insulting.
If your audience expects you to be someone who is highly critical and snarky, they will follow you. This is even true if you end up insulting a portion of them. Companies, and especially those focused on customer service, are never afforded those luxuries. No one expects insults in return for a customer complaint. In fact, your customer base may leave you en masse as a result. So, in the end, if you know who your audience is, you can more easily figure out what is the best way to interact with them.